friday classic film blogging

Do the Right Thing. (1989). Directed and written by Spike Lee. Starring Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Spike Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro.

With obligatory shots of him sitting courtside at Madison Square Garden or presiding over Academy Award ceremonies along with all the other tinseltown greybeards every spring, it's hard remember it to now, but Spike Lee was once one of America's most controversial cinematic personalities. An eighth-grade Dex very vividly recalls an episode of "Nightline" that Spike was dragged onto to "explain" Do the Right Thing to some ass-kissing black media studies professor and another simpering journalist; the moment was illustrative of a consistent, very modern theme among people who make their living in television and media - that they reamin eternally confused and outraged over the idea black people in America may have one or two things to be upset about, or that they dare express an opinion about it.

Do the Right Thing might've been the last "Spike Lee" movie, before his work began a less consistent, less impactful slide that I think can be marked by the awful final ten minutes of an otherwise sterling Malcolm X (1992). It's not perfect, by any means - again, Spike shows an inability to end his films, or to even accept the ambiguity a lot of the stories he tells have, and many of the characters and situations are really poorly realized (witness Edson's and Lee's argument over the best pitcher in the MLB - really Spike? Really?), and it's hard to watch him try and act sometimes too - but it has an electricity that I've only seen in some of Scorsese's best - it's a living piece of art. Do the Right Thing shows that once upon a time, Spike Lee was way, way up there, making movies bigger than the Oscars or "Nightline." I remember Spike Lee and Do the Right Thing more than I remember Reagan, and that's probably all that needs to be said about it.

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